Posts tagged ‘atheism’

Boycott Pepsi?

I just read a call to boycott Pepsi, as the blogger relates the offense, for omitting “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance so as not to be divisive.  Pepsi supposedly did that when printing the phrase “one nation…indivisible…” on cans.  The call came from a Christian I know.  To put words in her mouth, she is probably saying that the Pledge should be recited as Congress has dictated it.

It took about ten seconds of my time to search on the words “Pepsi Pledge of Allegiance” to find that this is a rumor started about a decade ago over something Dr. Pepper may have done.    The “one nation…indivisible” phrase, it would seem obvious, is what one might say in saluting the nation.  “One nation, under God” is a religious observation.

Once again, though, we nonbelievers would have received the default discrimination, one that some beverage company would have tried to save the world from–sticking religion into everything–when religion was the intrusion in the first place.  (I’m sure you know, but around 1954 in the communist-obsessed environment overheated by Senator Joe McCarthy and others,  Congress thought they’d trip up the Commies but injecting God into the Pledge–the same environment that brought us Vietnam–because Commies wouldn’t say “under God” if it was in the Pledge.  Will someone one please answer my question:  Why would the Commies say the Pledge as it was?  And if they were going to falsely recite the Pledge, why wouldn’t they falsely Pledge to God as well?).

That’s what it is, you know.  A Pledge or acknowledgement that we recognize that the U.S. nation is under God’s charge and loyal to Him.  I would venture to say that the communist threat from within has passed… so is Congress likely to remove the phrase?   Congress has not only shifted Right, it has shifted even more to the Christian Right.  Individually, those congressmen and senators will tell you that their first loyalty is to God… just like their radicalized Muslim brothers would.

You may be familiar with my theory of why or how the religiously affected get that way (Religion is God’s Way of Showing Us it’s a lot Earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought).  If they are deceived, even if willingly, that makes ours a rough row to hoe.  Everywhere that religion encroaches, once it’s there, it’s locked on.  Marked territory not only to never be freed again–the religious are blind to it.  It no longer is open to question.  Religion gets a free ride, a pass.   It is outside the questions, outside the equation of things that can be examined for fairness or equality.

That’s why it is so hard for us to gain any ground even though religion has encroached so much into are world.  Blind justice may treat us fairly, but not if justice is blinded by religion.  Why do they think they should be able to treat us unfairly?  Well, they pay lip service to tradition, but it’s the underestimated effect religion has on the religious that  they are most blind to.

If you consider civil rights laws, and rest assured that is the field where the discrimination against us lies, we are being discriminated against due to religion.  The bigots among the religious say we can’t be because we have no religion.









July 19, 2014 at 4:20 pm Leave a comment

One nation under God with liberty and justice for all

“Today [This is a quote from the Secular Coalition earlier this week.], the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued another disappointing decision in the case of Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District.”

“The case challenged a state law that requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Court sided with the defendant, and ruled that the school district can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance including the wording “under God”.”


The earlier decision referred to was the case The Town of Greece v. Galloway before the U.S. Supreme Court about the village starting each meeting with prayer. To me, though, the Massachusetts decision is much more troubling. The Secular Coalition states it quite well:

            “The case challenged a state law that requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Court sided with the defendant, and ruled that the school district can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance including the wording “under God”. – See more at:

            “Niose [then president of Secular Coalition] argued that the wording “under God” in the Pledge discriminates against atheists and other nonbelievers, by instilling and defining patriotism according to a god belief.

               ‘ “Atheist-humanist children love their country no less than do children who believe in God, and it’s just wrong to have a daily patriotic exercise that invalidates them by associating patriotism with God-belief,” Niose said after arguing the case. “If schools conduct a daily exercise to instill national loyalty, it should be inclusive and nondiscriminatory.” ‘

                “- See more at:  ”


The two points that make this the more heinous decision of the week are these:

 state law [ ] requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance


the school district can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance including the wording “under God”.

 I’d like to be a student there and be outted for not saying “under God.”  I currently substitute “religious freedom” in the Pledge now.

If I wouldn’t be turned in for that, I’d turn myself in for lying when I say, One nation under God with liberty and justice for all though  that now lies at the feet of the Massachusetts Supreme Court.








May 10, 2014 at 10:32 am 1 comment

Writing yourself to the spiritual place you want to be in.

I recently picked up a book, the Accidental Masterpiece in which the author speaks of the impact of art on our lives.  And says, also, that we can choose to pull that impact into our lives, to create our own art or just a life informed by art, or perhaps, we can even choose a life transformed by art.  And art may be ours for the defining.

arguably, are love, death, and sex in no particular ranking.  There are aspects or items in life, such as beauty, architecture, or nature which seem to boost us toward those vehicles of transcendence.

Eric Maisel tells us we can create a special place, real or imaginary, which will be a safe, but inspiring place to write. I think what we are doing in setting up that place is creating a spiritual dwelling place for ourselves.  (I’m hesitant to use the example, but a church is such a place set up by its members for the spiritual sense it gives them—or failing that—a place for the default rituals—the next best thing.)

For us, receivers of the revealed wisdom that we are “spiritual beings in a secular universe,” we can choose what is spiritual and what is art and what nourishes the human spirit.  Those things, those places, those ideas that we can bring together, that we can curate, accumulate, create.  We may engage in our own practice of art so it will inspire us further.

This is no small item.  Inspiring ourselves.  Even when inspired by something or someone else we participate in our own inspiration.  Certainly, we must.  Art and other creative acts are never truly isolated.  We bring them forth as products of ourselves, our world, and our culture.

So it is with our writing, or it can be.  This is true, also, of those who don’t think of themselves as writers.  Writing is an art or craft like many other endeavors.  What you get out of it is in relation to what you put into it.

The short lesson on writing is this: write, revise, and keep going.  Perfection is an illusion.  Don’t get hung up on it.  It doesn’t matter what you write, but write what you want.  As an endeavor of the human spirit, write randomly.  Leave the topic open.  Just keep writing.

After a few pages, some things will draw your attention.  Different categories of things.  Some things will seem to be negatives—make a note to eliminate or overcome them and move on to write in other directions.   Some goal, wish, or desire may pop out of the writing.  Acknowledge it and keep writing.

When you’re at this for a while two spiritual things (our secular human spirit) will materialize: What it takes to nurture your spirit and What it is that you do that nurtures your spirit.  For me, just this kind of writing does it.

Other things may suggest themselves through your writing that you can do—nature walks, camping trips, art or other museums, or whatever you may find.  If you try it all and run out of things come back and write at it some more.

You may just find that words, thoughts, and concepts may do it for you.  That is, they may elevate your spirit, your mood, your outlook.  You may be moved to write about that experience for others.  Even in that process you may find nurturance for your very human spirit, that soul-like thing.  If each of us gets the spiritual nurturance we need, we are less likely to point angrily at each other and say, You spoiled my happiness.

February 2, 2014 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

Who has the right to define spiritual atheism?

Dayton Freethought members clashed over definitions at a recent gathering on the topic of spiritual atheism.  More definitions flew around the room than one might have expected.

Surprisingly, the most significant clash was over the meaning of the term atheism.  With respect to the definition of atheism, it’s true that it literally means there is no god.  We found in discussion, however, that a number of members of Dayton Freethought who claim the title atheist for themselves also have a range of beliefs with respect to a spiritual realm or at least some energies that go beyond strict materialism.   I think some who call themselves atheist could also be said to be agnostic about a spiritual realm.

A number of folks in attendance stated that atheism means a person doesn’t believe in anything spiritual.  At least, technically, though, some atheists evidently can and do believe in something overtly spiritual.  Who’s right?  These spiritual atheists can stand on the technical interpretation of the definition of atheism to prove their case.

Still, there has been a common usage of atheism that not only negates any god, but anything nonmaterial as well.   I think in much of western culture, atheism has meant materialism. I checked the usage of the word with a number of major writers on the topic of atheism and believe they do mean atheism in the sense that negates anything spiritual. Reading their work to get the context showed it to be consistent with materialism.  That was my use of the term and many others at the Dayton Freethought meeting.


Now to complicate this further, writers like Steve Antinoff, Spiritual Atheism, (and myself) talk of a spiritual atheism that does not imply a spiritual realm, supernatural beings or events, or anything nonmaterial.

I’ll speak only for myself.  I talk of the traditional sense of atheism consistent with materialism.  Given a material world with no supernatural realm, no spooky events, no energies that arise from nonmaterial sources, I parse the word “spiritual” in two ways:

1. This null set of things that believers meant, but that do not exist, and therefore, I set aside as indicating nothing in the real world.

2: (Given the absence of a spiritual/supernatural realm, we potentially are all equally spiritual. It’s all natural and a product of human minds, culture, and genes.)  Spiritual in this sense, is the sense of what is real and what takes place within and between humans in the real world. This is what makes us feel a certain spiritual nurturance has taken place.  Some call it life-affirming.  Others might call it ennobling the human spirit.

What makes me think I have the right to use the word spiritual in this latter sense?  Well, because of the reality that spirituality must conform to.   I think it is a response we make to an inborn drive for spiritual fulfillment.  Not exactly a God Gene, but still a certain drive, one that sponsors religion.

Our rockstar atheists, Dawkins & Dennett, don’t think religion could have ever had benefits to humankind to the extent that it would have become an evolutionary adaptation.  Many scientists in the most relevant fields do believe religion is in our genes for several reasons.

1.  Universality.  Religion is in every culture on earth now and across time as far as we can tell.  Universality is the hallmark of a significant evolutionary adaptation.

2.  Conversely, No cultures unmarked by religion have survived to the present whether winnowed by competition among groups or by simply not making it through cataclysmic population bottle necks, Mount Tobu eruption, etc.

3.   People treat their religions as if vitally important.  They’re tenacious about their beliefs and often organize socially on that basis alone.

4.  Twins reared apart.  Identical twins reared in households with differing levels of religious exuberance match their twin’s religious interest, practice, and activity rather than that of the families who raised them.

(Too involved to fully develop here, I do develop that thesis in my book, see it at this link:


At any rate, if all the spirituality the world has ever known has occurred as natural phenomena in response to our desire for it supported by our genes, then all actual spirituality has come from within us alone.  Every religiously inspired accomplishment by believers, Michelangelo’s David and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, every cathedral ever built, and anything inspired by a god or any object of worship all come from the same organic source potentially within every human.  No dreamed of or contemplated god or saint or spiritual being was at the root cause of the spiritual experience.  Though believers may have made these accomplishments inspired by thoughts of such beings, no such beings exist, therefore, any spirituality or spiritual events are of a secular, worldly nature and, arguably, possible for anyone to have.

Would such a spiritual drive be sufficient for that inspiration?  Believers and nonbelievers alike enjoy neurochemical rewards for a number of thoughts and actions.  That’s the payoff for religiously and secularly inspired accomplishments.  Like our artistic and academic achievements, religio-spiritual accomplishments bring neurochemical rewards, pleasure, and/or loftly, uplifting feelings.  (See any article on the mutation about 25,000 years ago that doubled the dopamine receptors in the brain.)

So the drive to achieve the spiritual and the reward for achieving it, are all we have.  Dopamine, serotonin, and other neurochemicals released internally to give us the reward for that.


Through the use of this filter that we have applied,  we have eliminated the misunderstood origin and aspects of spirituality and left us with only the garden variety of spirituality—only what could have occurred in a material world.  Why consider this paler version of spirituality?  Because we have it.  Our genes drive us toward it; we need it.  Our psychology, our brains, and our neurochemistry are structured to reward it.  Ultimately, when religion is understood and tamed our secular spirituality will serve us well.

January 5, 2014 at 4:10 pm 3 comments

“Why can’t we all just get along?”?


Perhaps, this is just the season of our discontent.  Is the atheism movement big enough for all of us?  If Christianity is big enough for all of them, I would think so.  But more to the point, do we, can we, leave the “old atheists” behind?  And the New Atheists, too?  And seek a better destination, in the land of neo-atheists or Atheists+plus where we will reveal only the better angels of our nature?

Feminism feels unwelcome if not rebuffed.  LGBT, under-served. Other issues and constituencies might feel that way, too.  Humanism could take the position that New Atheism is too hard on Christianity.

In the branch of atheism that I’ve suggested as neo-atheists, I suggest that we will make the most progress by interacting with believers, showing them we are people of goodwill, having common-ground discussions with them, perhaps doing joint humanitarian projects.   Nothing new here, but it takes each of us a while to “process” our thoughts and feelings to be ready for such a step.

Many of us were largely cast as the lot we found ourselves to be in by Christians.  Our “godless” natures and other self-applied apellations/epithets can be traced back to our outcast origins. For us, we bought into Christian culture’s role ascribed for us as “bad boys” and the like.

There was, or is, in the zeitgeist the sense that atheists are the demonseed, blasphemers, heretics.  Bastards of our type, the holy books said, should be stoned to death.  It was easier to stay in the closet than face all that.  As we come out, the liberation is heady.  It can make us giddy, even a little immature.

Those that came from a different background–say a nonbelieving family–free from such baggage, are more functional than those of us who were liberated later in life.  Are these the Eloy who would move on?

Humanity is a story of assent, perhaps, even a spiritual story.  To the extent that each of us can incorporate that assent, emulate it, in our lives, we strive for an upward climb.  Can we grow as people?  Yes.  Do we grow?

November 13, 2013 at 10:47 pm Leave a comment

The Military Religious Freedom Protection Act has passed

(This is similar to the previous post, but the House Armed Services Committee did pass this de-Enlightenment legislation. There’s a URL at the bottom of the previous post if you think you want to hear Buck McKeon. I think he’ll prove you wrong.)

Chairman McKeon said if there were atheist chaplains, they would tell dying soldiers they would be “worm food.” Alternatively, when Rep. Fleming was asked what a Christian chaplain would tell a dying atheist soldier whom he believed would go to hell. Fleming said the Christian chaplain should offer the dying atheist soldier salvation through the Bible.

The last statement underlines the intent of the Military Religious Freedom (a malapropish misnomer in the long tradition of military and governmental oxymorons) Protection Act which became an amendment to a defense authorization bill which states that it is all right for believers of “a religion” to proselytize that faith to others.

The typical nonbeliever wouldn’t consider telling any dying soldier they might be “worm food” let alone a humanist chaplain. It’s a ludicrous proposition that he or she would do anything less than hold high esteem for an individual of any or no belief. This is because the average humanist believes that we all have an intrinsic human worth and that the human spirit is noble and a Humanist celebrant or chaplain is going to embody those qualities at a minimum. These congressmen are demonstrating that they do not value our service men and women in the same way.

Shouldn’t a chaplain to our men and women in uniform respect the faith tradition or beliefs of that person? That’s what a Humanist chaplain would do. But you have the congressmen’s words on it, that’s not what a Christian chaplain should do: They should offer the dying atheist soldier salvation through the Bible. This amendment supports that, but it is a one way street. Nonbelievers will have no “religious freedom” of their own protecting them from such inconsiderate behavior.
Gentlemen, you have our service members at too much of a disadvantage. They deserve better from you than this punishment for not being Christians. You can impose your will by a majority vote, but you can’t make it right or just. Are you treating the nonbelieving service members the way you want to be treated?
I take it these congressmen don’t feel the same nor do they feel that the men and women in uniform deserve equal treatment either. If they did, they’d ask each service member what kind of (faith) service they’d like, and it would be given.

It is possible for a bigoted person to go through a process of conversion. Our fellow Americans, bigoted though they may be, are our bigots and our brothers. As the humanism they denigrate would tell them, if they’d listen, all men are brothers. We must these help make these men better Christians. We must do this because as humanists we are our brothers’ keepers ..and we have no god that we would put before them.

Since only Christianity proselytizes, perhaps all Christians in the nation should weigh in. Tell these congressmen if you’re with them or against them. If we are not to judge you by your silence, speak up this one time. These men and women in uniform can’t speak up. They are at the mercy of the chain of command and it is to, and about, that chain of command they would have to complain—a career-ending move at best.

August 11, 2013 at 3:01 pm Leave a comment

Authentic Spirituality

I feel like I should apologize to any beings from off planet.   We humans start with a simple concept and we nuance it (though that’s not a verb–see, a case in point.) until the original idea is only tangentially related to our present pearl of wisdom.    Need some evidence?   There are no end of examples in the dictionary.  How many words have a meaning that has evolved into something else over time?  How many that now have so many shades of meaning different from the original concept?  New iterations, alien to those who were intimate friends of the original thought?   

But I come not to quibble over words.  Well, maybe just a bit more yet.   Take “spiritual” as it is linked to “spirituality.”    Overworked word, if ever there was one.   In one sense of the word, religious people mean something of the soul is affected by something of the divine.    Then I come along and tell you that we are predisposed genetically (not to my credit–see all the scientists, philosophers, and thinkers mentioned in Religion is God’s Way of showing us it’s earlier in Human Evolution than we Thought) to be “spiritual” in the sense of  religiousness, similar to  the neutral connotation of religiosity.

The general thesis that our brains are hardwired to reward us for religious–nay–spiritual thoughts, beliefs, inspired concepts, visions in order to enthrall us to rapturous heights has been argued before.  And, thus, the spiritual urge, by several other names (as mentioned), helps shape our behavior toward the religious.  And the religious benefit each other within their communities, and the stronger the religous community, the greater the survival chances of the individual (thinking of survival in the evolutionary sense).

It’s not quite that direction we want to go however.  But it does set us up to understand that the spiritual experience takes place at the spirit within (though we know this in the sense of the human spirit rather than a soul).  The believer thinks s/he’s spiritually inspired by the divine from without.  We have  learned, though, that the equipage is within.

Though the New Atheist (and, admittedly, I’m not too far from one) might enjoy it if Lancelot’s steed stumbles and his lance crumples on impacting into the dirt, I think we should revive that spiritual steed.  Many of us have that aforementioned equipage–a certain spiritual need and a very real feeling of spiritual accomplishment.  Without some outlet and some experience of the reward that neurochemically validates it, we seem to suffer.

What we need is to find the literal truths (believe what’s true rather than insisting that what we want to believe is true) that satisfy our spritual need and that stimulates and allows our neurochemical reward.  Is that possible?   That is the challenge.  

It would seem that life affirming stories come close.  Events of celebration have an intent that is more or less in that direction.  Naturalism, especially, evolutionary naturalism finds inspiration in the world and the universe.  Humanism (is there evolutionary humanism?) champions humanity and celebrates its nobility.

I’m saying there is a secular side to evolutionary theology and that through recognizing that rising of humankind in our singular ascent, perhaps combines with evolutionary naturalism and humanism to help us know, appreciate, and celebrate the reality of our past, present, and future.

July 6, 2013 at 10:31 am 1 comment

Older Posts


I write for agnostics, freethinkers, atheists and humanists. In my nonfiction, the purpose is the celebration of our noble human spirit. The general pursuit may be Evolutionary Theology, though believers seem to populate that field (so maybe it's evolutionary Humanism). By looking at who we are and where we came from, we can derive much meaning, and perhaps more importantly, understanding, as well as some sense of where we could go.

Religion is God’s Way of Showing Us it’s Earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought

This title is an upcoming book at the publisher's now. I'd like feedback on this title. It's meant to make people think and feel something. And to hint at things for both believers and non- on multiple levels. The book is of a wider scope, though, one which is ultimately a way to grasp more meaning for ourselves. Believers are always telling us our lives don't have meaning without a god. We often counter that it's more meaningful to be looking for our own meaning than to be arbitrarily ascribed it by an imaginary supernatural being. Ultimately, and this is what I think is unique about this book, you'll see how we can be just as spiritual in our own way. Since we've inhertited a capacity for religion (some more than others) as an evolutionary adaptation, believers and non- are both potentially spritual in the same way--but it is an earthly, secular spirituality in which we all can share.